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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingA new report out today raises questions about the popular cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor. Researchers found a higher than normal rate of kidney failure and muscle problems. But they're warning patients not to throw out their medicine--that could be even more dangerous.
The American Heart Association is urging patients not to stop taking Crestor because of this study, but they admit the results are worth taking a closer look at the drug's safety. Statins are prescription drugs that lower cholesterol and cut heart attack and stroke rates by a third. Crestor is the newest and most powerful drug in the group.
A new study in the American Heart Association's Journal "Circulation" finds Crestor's rate of muscle damage and kidney failure up to nine times higher than the other statins. Last year the watchdog group Public Citizen asked the FDA to ban Crestor.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, Co-Author "Worst Pills, Best Pills": "The unique risk of kidney damage and muscle damage make this drug something that should be of great concern to all patients."
It's the same risk that prompted the FDA to ban the statin "Baycol" four years ago. But Crestor reports only half as many problems as Baycol. The FDA concluded Crestor is safe. And doctors now urge patients not to throw out their pills based on this report.
Dr. Steven Nissen, The Cleveland Clinic: "The greatest danger to patients is to stop taking their drugs and let their cholesterol levels go back up to their high levels they were before they were prescribed, and then go on to potentially have a heart attack or a stroke."
Experts urge patients to put this study in context. The numbers are small, less than 30 problems for every one million prescriptions. Most of those affected were already at risk for these side effects, and this study only looked at problems doctors voluntarily reported.
You should also keep in mind the lead researcher for this study is a paid speaker for Astra-Zeneca, the company that makes Crestor. That's not unusual, but it is worth noting.